Friday, December 01, 2006

In the Warmth

It was August 10, 1974 and the television in the corner of the bar was running tape from the day before. From in front of the helicopter, Richard Nixon waved at the cameras while wearing a jovial smile. The arrangement of the smile on his face, coupled with the fact that he had just resigned the presidency, left me thinking he must actually be happy about the matter. I was an innocent 24 years old and had little worldly knowledge of the feelings Nixon might actually own at that moment.

The setting was a downtown bar in San Francisco. I was there due to wanderlust and unhappiness with the course of my architectural studies in Texas. A president resigning was little matter to me. The image on the screen smiled and waved, a solemn young anchor named Dan Rather informed those sitting at the mahogany bar of the graveness of the matter. Truth to be told no one was listening. Dan could have been speaking Hungarian and it would not have been noticed inside the bar.

Randy the bartender kept an eye on the banter and playful shoving of the fishing crew that occupied the tables behind my right shoulder. If I turned my head to the right I could see the leader of the group, dressed in a denim short sleeve shirt, an enormous belly hung over a belt long dismissed from view. Red suspenders saved his pants from falling about his ankles. His Giants baseball cap was tugged down to middle brow. He talked with a voice as enormous as the belly below. The general counsel he offered his fishing mates was that the communist were at the bottom of Gordon Liddy breaking into Watergate. According to him the communist had infiltrated Nixon’s staff and Liddy got himself caught on purpose, probably without Nixon knowing a damned thing about any of it. I tuned him out, but monitored bartender Randy’s eyes all the same. San Francisco bars were a new thing for me.

To my left sat a man that reminded me of Joe DiMaggio. Joe had been born and raised in San Francisco. I knew from reading the biographies that he still lived in the area. The man that looked like Joe wore a deep blue suit, finely tailored, with a fresh white dress shirt, set off by an emerald green tie with tiny white anchors scattered across the green. At the end of the shirts cuffs were honest to God diamond cuff links that glittered in spite of the dullness of the bars light. At the end of his right arm he rocked a Tanqueray and tonic, a small lime rested against the side of the cocktail glass half submerged.

I stared too long. It was as if he grew intolerant of my wonder at my new world, then seemed to have a different thought, benevolent in the face of my lack of grace. He turned to look at me. With a bemused smile he asked why a young man like me was sitting alone in a downtown bar. “It’s too big a story to get into really”, I said, “I’m actually from Texas but it got to feeling too big for me there.” This drew a small smile from the man. I wanted to ask him all about Marilyn Monroe. Even if he wasn’t Joe I figured it would give him a chance to pretend and make up Marilyn lies for a Texas hick. I didn’t ask him though. I just stared at my Budweiser and thought about home.

“Is there a woman involved in Texas being too big?” the man asked. He smiled again, glanced up at the TV where Nixon was hugging his wife Pat, then looked back at me. “No” I said, “I have a wife. She’s working and I guess I just felt like I needed some space from things. The truth of it is that she’s earning all the living right now, I just graduated from architecture school.”

Moments of silence went by. I figured pretend Joe looked at me as an enormous creep right now, sort of like sitting alongside a big Texas cockroach, except he had already opened up a conversation with the danged insect and didn’t really know what to say next. My pretend Joe wrote a note with a ballpoint pen across a cocktail napkin and neatly folded it in half.

In time he resumed talking to me, but he took a new strategy of personal monologue, probably not wanting to take the chance of learning any more about me.

“Son, there is something wonderful about a woman that would do something like that. There are good women all over our world. Now you understand that they are quite different from you and me. In a lot of ways they are superior. They know when a child is hurting just by looking at their face, and they know when you hurt by doing the same thing, just looking into your eyes they can know more about you than you want them to know. They do things we never see or appreciate. They smell better than baking bread most of the time and they do it for you and me. The touch of a woman can’t be replicated by anything. If I could have only one thing in the world I would ask God for the love of a woman beside me at all times. The flowers, the smiles, the touch, the knowing inside their eyes.” He stopped talking for a second and rocked his gin across the ice cubes. “You know, they say once a woman loves a man he should honor her at all times because it’s a love that can’t be replaced or found anywhere on earth.” He looked sad for a moment, then continued, “You know another thing? They are smarter than us men really. They understand what love means and they spend their lives waiting for us to catch up to them, only we never really are able to get there. That’s why I take flowers to Marilyn every day, my wandering man from Texas. I’ll keep doing it until the day I die. I never got it right for her when I had her, and now I’m just trying to catch up.”

My heart skipped a half beat at the revelation that I was indeed listening to the great Joe DiMaggio. He had just told me how much he still loved Marilyn and why he takes flowers to her grave each day. My head felt light as I watched Joe place the cocktail glass gently onto the bar as he stood and turned toward the door. He placed a hand on my shoulder on his way out. “Son you remember what I’ve told you about the power of a woman. A single night with a good woman is worth 2 home runs. Go on home to Texas now, and you treat her with the respect every woman deserves.” He disappeared out the door and into the night while Dan Rather interviewed experts on the president’s resignation and my brain retreated from its stunned state.

The large voice of the Giants capped fisherman boomed out at me no more than a minute after Joe’s exit. “Well look at the little man talking to Joe. He don’t know no one sits beside or talks to Joe in here. You’re a dumbass kid, nobody bothers Joe, everybody knows that. You think you’re some kind of special little lousy shit or something, just cozy up to Joe like you don’t know no better?”

Randy the bartender told him to back off, but he was leaning onto the bar at my right side, his big belly grazing my right elbow. His breath reeked of bourbon and cigarettes.

“He tell you about butt-pokin ol’ Marilyn did he? Tell you all about that pretty little bitch giving him head? My theory on women is that they all think with their twats. Aint that right boys?” he bellowed out to the fishing tribe.

“Damn right,” came back the chorus from the men, “Women think with their twats, that’s what they do, that’s why they’re so goddamned stupid.”

Slobber dripped from his mouth. Gravity dropped it onto his belly before it could reach the floor. With a flourish of his left hand, he spread the slobber across the shirt and leaned into to me so he could deliver the end of his sermon.

“You remember that you little turd, Marilyn Monroe hurt that man so bad that he don’t even talk to no one. Except for some damn reason he talked to you cause you didn’t know no better than to sit your little ass right beside him. You just remember my advice. Women do all their thinking with their twats!” He walked back toward his mates, triumphant in his bullying.

On the bar in front of where Joe had been sitting was the folded napkin. I opened the single fold in the middle to find his handwritten note.

“May the women in your life always hold you close in the warmth of their thoughts. Thank you for sitting with me tonight.” - Joe DiMaggio


Rick said...

Oh. My. God. You were in LaTrataria a block off the Embarcadero, right? I used to eat there everyday! Joe DiMaggio was old friends with the owner and there almost everyday himself! Tell me I'm right!

Seven said...

Thanks for the careful read my friend.

samuru999 said...

That was just the most wonderful story!
I love it!
And, what a great memory to have..
And, what a treasure to have the napkin on which JoediMaggio wrote..

May the women in your life always hold you close in the warmth of their thoughts.
Thanks for sitting with me tonight.

He was quite a guy!

Thanks so much for sharing that!


Enemy of the Republic said...

This is beautiful, Seven. For the men that suck crowd, read this. You haven't been meeting the right people.

Seven said...

Rick and Margie,
I suppose I created the illusion I was looking for. I was in San Francisco on that day in 1974. I did watch Nixon resign from a bar stool of a downtown SF bar. The rest of the story is fiction worked around some points of the posts that preceeded this one. I hoped to make a point about gender bashing and to illustrate that a statement that a gender thinks with its genitals is not a sophisticated or clever statement no matter its appeal or where its motivation might arise. If the story inspires us to think about the remarkable grace of women and the opportunity for my gender to treat them with respect, I will consider the illsuion of my fiction to have had purpose.
The napkin is a photoshop magicians illusion. (I'm skilled in Photoshop)
Lastly, I know for Rick he understands the time period and the bit of research I did. For you Margie, when I read your comments on other blogs I am always reminded of the remarkable level of love in all women, the love Joe D describes in the words I loaned him. You are unfailingly kind and supportive.

Seven said...

Thank you. The words I loaned Joe are a measure of how I think, and I felt the need to say them after the last post. Peace

patti_cake said...

You definitely showed us the spectrum between "Joe" who loved and valued his woman to the rude, crude Giants capped Fisherman. I guess it takes all kinds but i'll take a little bit of love & respect anyday!

samuru999 said...

Hi again Seven
When I was reading the story...
I actually thought it was fictional...
but, then again I was not sure!
Anyway, it is just a wonderful write!
I do understand it all much better..
after reading your previous post!
You are a great guy!!!!!
And, thank you so very much for those kind words!
You are a gem!!!
Your wife is one lucky lady!


~gkw said...

That was a great story... I brought my wife in here just to read it!

Jenn said...

Seven - I read this a few times. It's very good.

In reality, there are all kinds. Obviously, there are people who don't think with their heads. But there are those who do...and mix it up a little with their hearts.

I couldn't comment the first couple times I read it because it really struck close to home for me. I remember loving The Idiot. I know I did. But it didn't matter. I remember wondering why that wasn't enough. Now - I know...or come closer to it...why. He's a broken person. While he never accused me of thinking with my "twat"...there were plenty of other accusations. All about me being selfish. I guess I'm just lucky he didn't make the other connection. True or not - he would have like that tool in his kit.

Anyway - you did a good job making the point here.

Seven said...

So often getting love and respect comes from giving the same. I know you do this, so I trust you will always receive your share.

You're welcome and thank you too. Stay warm in Colorado today.

I know anyone that reads your posts understands your dedication and respectfulness of all those precious girls surrounding you. I've raised one daughter. They will show you that remarkable quality Joe talks about. Every day, if we let them. You might be completely crazy at the end of the trail; but you WILL be loved.

Such a beautiful gift has to be earned. Another with the power to understand what you offer and 'earn' the right to own it is waiting for you. The trick here is to keep the lamp glowing is it not? God Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Like Margie, I vacillated between thinking of fiction and reality, and I especially wondered at the crude remarks, in light of the recent discussion about same. Doesn’t really make a difference whether truth or imagination, as it is a great piece of work, my friend. Bravo! And bravo also for BEG, 'cause I'm sure she is part of the cement in your foundation.

Seven said...

Hi Lynilu,
Yes, I know the language got a bit rough from the fisherman. I was tempted to alter it, yet it is real life and it illustrates the difference between maintaining respect for the opposite gender and the slovenly loss of the same.
As far as BEG, you are close. She IS the foundation. The whole thing.

Anonymous said...

No, you were right to use it because it is what it is. Isn't it just interesting that when people are crude, they don't use real words, but rely on made up, ugly ones. I think it speeks to the mentality of the speaker.

And, of course, she is the whole thing. I'm happy to be reassured that there are people like yourself and BEG in this world to keep us grounded in loving relationships. There are just too few like yourselves. Give her an extra hug tonight.

Reach said...

I call foul ball....
In the past, you have indicated fiction from reality in the beginning- OK, I believed it!
I even re-read the story to ensure I've not missed a single point and it was not until I read the other comments that I realized my error. I like to read your posts and immediately respond without any prompting from others, this time I am glad I broke my habit. While I should say, "Good One" I find a can not; therefore, I will say this is a "Great One".

Perception is the most difficult view to understand, by any other person. As each of us go through our individual life’s experiences, we draw conclusions and call it learning. Your illustration of Mr. DiMaggio, a baseball icon, an American Hero to the youth and adults alike; held the world in his hands in the view of everybody except himself- there was only one person he desired to hold. Also, the nasty fishing crew loud-mouth displayed his character in the only manner he knew, by becoming the Bully. The encouragement of his fellow associates and his word selection in his lesson demonstrated his tendency for taking on this role in displaying his life earned ideals. The very separate discussions followed the paths of perception and the demeanor of the originator; additionally, I must commend the perfect portrayal of a gifted listener.

This indicates the author utilizes excellent listening habits.

Just a thought,


Seven said...

I'm really pleased you found so many messages in there. It is always fascinating to me to see what others find as it often different from what the person alongside them might find. I will say this; you were looking where I was pointing.